Oh What Tangled Webs We Weave…

The New York Times ran a story on 9/18/18 (“Lawyers Work at Untangling Risk to Trump”), which discusses at length the multitude of potential problems caused by having what many would say are “too many cooks in the kitchen”. Many lawyers have come and gone from Trump’s team and each of them has had his own strategy. Their strategies may or may not prove to be incompatible, but the Trump public relations strategy is to try to discredit and blame all of the lawyers that have left the team and position Trump as a victim of his own lawyers’ mistakes. This plan has the benefit of being able to take cheap shots at those who legally and ethically are prohibited from firing back. This seems unfair to the lawyers whose reputations are damaged, but the privilege pertaining to lawyer/ client communications is sacrosanct in our legal system.

The New York Times’ story has within it a key paragraph that is telling and teaches a lesson:

“What is more, it is not clear if Mr. Trump has given his lawyers a full account of some key events in which he has been involved as president or during his decades running the Trump Organization.”

In other words, his lawyers have conceived and carried out strategies based upon, at best, partial information or, at worst, actual lies.

The age old wisdom that you must tell your lawyer all of the truth all of the time applies to Trump and to everyone else who engages a lawyer’s services. A lawyer simply cannot be effective unless he or she knows the whole truth. Lawyers acting upon lies and ignorance will often inadvertently do more harm than good.

The truth has a way of coming out eventually and, if it follows a lie, the harm is much worse than if the truth was told in the beginning. Trump has, thus far, escaped this maxim, but that will probably change.

Having represented so many people over the years, including those charged with heinous crimes, I can tell you that clients often don’t want to tell their lawyers the whole truth because they fear the lawyer will not represent them or will not put forth a good effort. This almost always backfires and hurts the client. If the client is harmed by a lawyer acting upon the assumption that the client is telling the truth, who is really to blame for the consequences?

There are also clients who want their lawyer to tell the “story” that they have concocted and they insist that the lawyer tell that story their way even if it is against the lawyer’s best judgment to do so. This type of client tends to believe that they are smarter than their own lawyer, smarter than the opponent and smarter than the legal system. This type of person views lawyers as mere tools to be used and manipulated in a game and, if the game is lost, to take the blame for the consequences. Textbook narcissism.

I think you can sense that Trump is a combination of these types. The latest evidence of this is Trump’s condemnation of the lady who has accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Trump absurdly claimed her credibility was in doubt because, among other reasons, she was represented by lawyers and even suggested her lawyers should be investigated. Considering his relationship with his personal “fixer”, Michael Cohen and, before that, the infamous Roy Cohn, and the many, many legal scrapes he has been in through the years, it isn’t hard to figure out how he got that idea.

Photo Credit: Witwiccan